Blogger arrested for sneaking into room of Senator Cochran's bedridden wife
A blogger supporting Mississippi state senator Chris McDaniel, a Tea Party backed candidate looking to unseat Senator Thad Cochran in the primary, was arrested for "exploitation of a vulnerable adult" after he snuck into the nursing home room of Cochran's bedridden wife to take a picture. He then posted the photo along with a hit piece on Cochran to his blog.
Kelly is accused of sneaking into St. Catherine's Village in Madison, where Rose Cochran has resided since 2000, suffering from progressive dementia and now bedridden.
Cochran on Saturday issued a statement: "I have been fortunate to have a wonderful family, and like so many families, we are deeply affected by my wife's serious, long-term illness, that we consider to be a very private family matter. We will continue doing everything we can to protect my wife's safety and security."
Donald Clark, attorney for Sen. and Rose Cochran, said the Cochrans' "privacy and dignity have been violated."
"We became aware of an unauthorized picture, posted on the internet, of Mrs. Cochran, taken literally in her room by her bedside at St. Catherine's," Clark said. "Sen. Cochran retained my law firm on this matter, and we looked at various legal options. We notified the proper authorities, which in this case is the city of Madison Police Department."
Clark said St. Catherine's is also conducting an internal investigation.
Campaign sources say Kelly on Saturday, April 26th, posted an anti-Cochran, pro-Chris McDaniel "hit piece" video that included the image of Rose Cochran. The video and references to it were removed from the internet within a couple of hours.
Kelly operates a "Constitutional Clayton" blog, a Youtube channel and other social media. He has posted numerous pieces in support of McDaniel and opposition to Cochran, and appears to have interviewed McDaniel on video at least once.
A campaign spokesman for state Sen. Chris McDaniel's campaign said the campaign was not involved in the video Kelly did, and Kelly doesn't work for the campaign.
"Absolutely -- I've never even heard his name," said Noel Fritsch, communications director for McDaniel.
McDaniel, in a written statement on Saturday, said: "I have reached out to Sen. Cochran directly to express my abhorrence for the reprehensible actions of this individual. This criminal act is deeply offensive and my team and I categorically reject any such appalling behavior. My thoughts and prayers are with Sen. Cochran and his family. Politics is about the exchange of ideas and this type of action has no place in politics whatsoever and will not be tolerated."
McDaniel's statement notwithstanding, quetsions have been raised about the campaign's knowledge of the incident when McDaniel's campaign manager sent an email offering her condolences on the exposure of his bedridden wife. The email was sent before the story broke.
In fact, as this follow up article suggests, the McDaniel campaign can't get its story straight.
Noel Fritsch with the McDaniel campaign has released a statement clarifying the timeline of when the McDaniel campaign learned of the arrest and break-in:
"Melanie noticed the political blog post at around 1:00 AM CDT Saturday and was alarmed that it was likely Ms. Cochran who had been photographed based on the preponderance of evidence, including the name of the rest home and the comments on the blog.
"At around 7:30 AM CDT, Chris was notified only briefly of the incident and the need to personally reach out to Sen. Cochran.
"Shortly thereafter, Melanie called Cochran campaign manager Kirk Sims to express in strongest terms the campaigns' condemnation of the alleged crime. Alex Jaffe interviewed Chris at around 9:30 AM CDT during an event, at which time Chris had still not been fully briefed. Chris was not fully briefed until he left event around 10:30 AM CDT, at which point the campaign issued a statement at 10:49 AM CDT."
UPDATE 3: The Hill is reporting that "a GOP aide who has listened to the voicemail from Sojourner to Simms, McDaniel's manager says she was made aware of the incident late Friday evening. She emphasized that their campaign was appalled, and that McDaniel himself was disgusted by Kelly's actions and wanted to speak to Cochran directly to express his outrage."
A GOP aide who has listened to the voicemail also confirmed to The Clarion-Ledger that Sojourner said that McDaniel "was upset about the whole thing and wanted to talk to Cochran" about it.
However, that does not match up with what McDaniel told The Hill in DeSoto County on Saturday morning when he said he knew nothing about the arrest at that time. Noel Fritsch, McDaniel's communications director, also said early Saturday morning when contacted by The Clarion-Ledger that he had not heard of the arrest.
This is not to suggest that the McDaniel campaign had anything to do with this reprehensible incident. What it shows is poor coordination by staff to deflect attention away from their candidate. Instead, it has increased scrutiny. This resulted in a definitive statement finally released late yesterday:
"The McDaniel campaign found out about the break in when a local political blog posted about it at 11:40 p.m. last night. Senator McDaniel has denounced the break-in and called Senator Cochran to extend his condolences. It is unconscionable for the Cochran campaign and the liberal media to use the act of a sick individual to lob despicable accusations."
The Clarion-Ledger has asked for clarification on the statement as to which blog reported that the arrest was connected to Rose Cochran or how the campaign knew the arrest was related to Rose Cochran since the only known report last night did not mention Cochran's name.
It's extremely unlikely that the McDaniel campaign would have anything to do with this nutcase blogger. But McDaniel's staff is not making the situation any better by revising their timeline, and offering confused explanations for who knew what and when.
The primary is June 3.